IP telephony gets boost

WASHINGTON (04/10/2000) - With a slew of new products introduced late last month, Cisco Systems Inc. is challenging the conventional wisdom that IP telephony -- or voice services over an IP-based network -- works well only on a small scale. Among the 10 products announced is Cisco CallManager 3.0, call-processing software that will allow for building IP voice networks around clusters of servers large enough to serve federal agencies and Fortune 500 companies, according to the company.

Each cluster of five Microsoft Corp. Windows NT- and Windows 2000-based servers will support up to 10,000 users, said Marthin De Beer, senior director of marketing for Cisco, San Jose, Calif. In turn, up to 10 of these clusters can be linked via an enterprise network, creating a system that supports up to 100,000 users. Not to be locked into IP systems exclusively, De Beer said CallManager will switch service over to the public switched telephone network in the event of a server problem.

Among the benefits of an IP telephony system are an end to reprogramming telephones when employees change locations and the opportunity for large organizations to consolidate telecom support staff with data communications staff. De Beer said the cost of investing in IP telephony could be earned back from these types of savings within about 13 months. In addition to CallManager, Cisco introduced two IP telephones, an Intel Corp.-based IP telephony/data server, and an Ethernet switch module that can be upgraded to supply power to an IP telephone via an Ethernet cable.

According to Cisco spokesman Robert Barlow, the Labor Department has purchased some Cisco IP telephony products.